Touted as one of Singapore’s leading fashion designers, Max Tan is one of the few local designers who have found success beyond Singapore’s shores. Apart from opening his first flagship store in Capitol Piazza in Singapore, his designs can be found overseas in countries like Taiwan, England, Norway, Sweden, Kuwait and Dubai.
Having graduated top of his class in Fashion Design from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 he launched his first collection at the Singapore Fashion Week in 2007. With the recognition he received for his clothes from the local market, including being voted runner-up in the Singapore Young Designer’s Contest, Tan then started his own label MAX.TAN. Since then, he has developed something of a cult following for his creative designs, with an especially strong market in Scandinavia.
NS: Who was the biggest influence in your decision to become a fashion designer?
MT: My mother. My mother was a seamstress so I was exposed to garment making aspects even before I knew what fashion really was. Growing up, I was always interested in painting and the arts in general, so I knew I would end up doing something creative in the future.
NS: How would you describe your design style?
MT: I’d describe it as a blend of soft geometric shapes. It’s minimalist, avant garde drapery and modified Asian garments.
NS: Which designers do you look up to?
MT: There are many designers that I look up to, but if I had to pick a period, it would be the 1980s when Japanese designers (Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto etc.) took Paris by storm with their black, shapeless but highly intelligent clothing. The way these designers adapted the western style of clothing, infusing it with effortless, minimal Japanese sense of designing, was incredible. I also look up to a handful of Belgian designers including Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten and Ann Dem for their sheer poetry.
NS: Could you share some advice with aspiring fashion designers who hope to succeed in this highly competitive fashion industry?
MT: Always plan ahead. While fashion is a creative business, it is still a business. So whether one takes the retail route or purely runs a design studio, it has to make business sense. It is a tough industry to be in so persevere and stay humble.
NS: Could you share with us your thoughts on the local fashion scene?
MT: Although we currently have many local designers and local brands in the market, consumers are still finding it difficult to believe that they offer quality and well-designed garments compared to international labels. Whether it’s for masses, masstige or designer brands, we have Singaporean designers who cater to each of these markets. The scene is exciting, the reception, however, is lukewarm.
NS: What more do you think can be done to help local designers raise their profile in Singapore and overseas?
MT: My take is that designers need to take responsibility in generating awareness. At the same time, the ball is entirely in the end consumer’s court; they decide if a designer stays or leaves.
NS: What do you think is so unique about Singapore’s fashion scene?
MT: Due to our multicultural background, there are a lot of references and inspiration in Singaporean culture for dressing up.
NS: Can you share with us your future plans for your label MAX.TAN?
MT: The immediate plan for us is definitely tied to Fashion Futures, initiated by Singapore Fashion Week and Spring Singapore. With its affiliation to the CFDA, we hope to raise more awareness for the brand when we head to New York this July.
NS: Where do you hope to see MAX.TAN five years from now?
MT: I hope to grow the brand in even more markets. We are currently in Europe, the Middle East, Scandinavia, Taiwan and the United States. We hope to build a bigger presence here in Asia and especially at home in Singapore.
NS: Tell us about your upcoming collection?
MT: Titled ‘thou shalt not,’ my upcoming collection seeks to question the norms and sequences of designing. During the process of designing this collection, we aimed to “undesign” by not following the standard rules. In fact we did not sketch at all for this collection. Instead, we did multiple collage works and paper mock ups, eventually completing each outfit before moving onto the next. We let each previous piece dictate how the next outfit should look. The collection also challenges the way we look at objects and how things or “effects” can be achieved by other means.
L2-15 Capitol Piazza, 13 Stamford Road, tel: 6702 1816, max-tan.com
MAX.TAN is also available in several stores across the island including threadbare & squirrel, eggthree and re-style@isetan scotts.
Singapore Pinacothèque de Paris recently exhibited an exciting collection of